This large district needed a college and career readiness solution that offers students the information and opportunities they need to meet state standards and make a post-secondary plan for success.

This large district needed a college and career readiness solution that offers students the information and opportunities they need to meet state standards and make a post-secondary plan for success.

The Challenge

Davenport Community Schools is a sprawling district that serves four counties in Iowa and more than 15,000 students. With multiple changes in leadership and disparate needs across schools, creating a systematic college and career readiness program was a big hurdle.

Despite the challenges, district leaders knew they needed to do something. The graduation rate in the three traditional and one alternative high schools hovered in the low- to mid-80s and a segment of the population didn’t have a college goal (and weren’t being provided alternatives).

“We’ve been so focused on test scores and academics for such a long time that we weren’t truly preparing our students to make choices for their post-secondary life,” says Jennifer Boyd, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, CTE, Health, and Physical Education at Davenport.

“There’s been a disconnect in terms of the conversations and quality of career exploration and development. The biggest challenge was awareness. Students were just not aware of the opportunities within their own schools to build a competitive advantage and start taking classes toward a future goal. That was a big gap,” says Boyd.

Although Davenport complied with the Iowa Individual and Academic Career Plan (ICAP) requirement of having a career navigation system, the Career Cruising solution they were using was being phased out. They were in the market for a vibrant, engaging program that speaks to students from all pathways and helps them establish a powerful future readiness program.

District
Davenport Community Schools
Location
Iowa
Problem
The district needed an engaging college and career readiness program that engages students, eliminates bias in the career exploration process, and fulfills ICAP requirements.
Solution
Xello was introduced as a “single source of truth” for meeting ICAP requirements and ensuring middle and high school students are engaged and inspired throughout their academic journey.

The Solution

Boyd and her team did their due diligence by exploring three state-approved solutions before making their decision.

One of the features they were especially interested in was high-quality curriculum that educators could plug and play in advisory classes – and even integrate into any subject. Boyd says Xello’s Lessons promised a “way in” for content specialists.

“If a math teacher can find ways to embed career experiences and talk about careers in math class, that’s powerful, and would often need strategic professional development to achieve it. Xello makes it easy to do without intensive training,” says Boyd.

They also appreciated that Xello’s lessons and other features are designed to allow students to self-manage.

“Teachers don’t have to go out and find this stuff and make up lessons. They can guide students onto the Xello platform where students can get a personalized experience. We love that educators are there to support and answer questions as needed but the students drive the bus with how they engage with it and what they choose to explore. They have complete freedom to explore opportunities that are aligned to their needs,” says Boyd.

“We loved that about Xello. It showcases all these different opportunities, schools, and occupations and it really gives information about all of it in a student-friendly way.”

Using the ICAP, Boyd and her team put together specific requirements middle and high school students across the district must accomplish in Xello.

“Our bigger vision a couple years down the road is that it’s embedded in the classroom on a regular basis, but we’re not there yet as a district. This is our soft rollout to those bigger conversations.”

Davenport Community Schools
15,000
Students
32
Schools
84%
Graduation Rate
2,500
Employees

“Xello was the top contender hands down. The capabilities, the platform and the way it looks and allows students to interact and engage and build ongoing portfolios of their journey through this whole career experience piece were all really appealing to us.”

Davenport Community Schools

Jennifer Boyd, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, CTE, Health, and Physical Education, Davenport Community Schools.

The Results

Implementing Xello while in the throes of a pandemic has been less than ideal. The 2020/21 school year has been mostly a hybrid home/school model at Davenport, with 30% of the student population opting for online only.

“It was tough because teachers were in the highest stress of their lives at the beginning of this year. We didn’t want to stress them more with this brand new thing that we’re rolling out. But counselors took the lead and created Google Classrooms for our students and gave them information about specific activities and requirements in Xello and students jumped in,” said Boyd.

Single sign-in made it especially easy for student access. “It shows up in Google Drive, which is wonderful. We also linked all of our staff to accounts.”

One of Boyd’s favorite administrative features is the data she can pull at any time. “I can see how many kids are logging on in every school. This lets me know who’s hitting targets and who needs help.”

“The data pulls are phenomenal to make sure we’re hitting ICAP targets. I love seeing time stamps. We’ve got kids getting on at 11:30 at night researching, checking things out, which is amazing.”

Amy Murphy, Head Counselor at West High School, also finds Xello’s data helpful and easy to gather.

“I used to create a Google Form and make the students and teachers fill it out for accountability. Now I know how many students are on Xello and when. I get updates every day. I see kids go back for things they miss, and I can see how students are progressing in their tasks.”

She says she also appreciates the way Xello’s Lessons teach kids the material they need to know in an engaging way, including those that apply to ASCA and ICAP standards.

“In the past, I created lessons and put together videos and it was a lot more on teachers to present the different components and be responsible for lessons. Xello Lessons are pretty comprehensive in the areas we need to address so we’re able to put those through Google Classroom to students, which takes some pressure off of teachers,” she explains.

Murphy says she’s received great feedback from students as well. “I had a student who knew the college she was going to, but was looking for a program to minor in. The college website was confusing, so I suggested we pull up Xello. She immediately said, ‘I love Xello!’ And it ended up being an easier place to understand what a college offers than the college website.”

Another boon for Boyd is the ability to identify students who are interested in specific post-secondary pathways or career clusters and invite them to career events.

“If we have a career expo event targeted for 8th graders in the area of health care, I can go into Xello and get a catered list of kids who are interested in this and message them directly in Xello. Before, we were relying on buildings to communicate information to kids and we weren’t making progress. Now that I can send recruitment information directly to students, we’re seeing a lot more uptake,” she says.

“Students aren’t great at checking email, but when they get on Xello, which is a requirement, it pops up that they have a message, and we get a lot more engagement.”

While it’s difficult to measure Xello’s impact in an unusual school year, Boyd and Murphy expect they’ll be able to see the true impact in time.

“We’ll be able to be more efficient and effective in creating [future readiness] opportunities for students and ensuring kids don’t fall through the cracks. Xello provides a wealth of information and the student engagement factor is really powerful,” says Boyd.

That was Davenport Community Schools’ success story—now it’s time to write yours. Learn how Xello can help students at your district get college and career ready. Book My Demo

About the District
Davenport Community Schools has the resources and unique programs of a large district with the small class sizes and hands-on approach of small-town schools. Serving the communities of Blue Grass, Buffalo, Davenport, and Walcott, the district is resource-rich, blending student and family support programs with a wide range of curricular offerings to create a customized learning environment for all students. The district has high expectations, low class sizes, customized curriculum, and a caring learning environment.
About the Educators
Jennifer Boyd is a Curriculum Specialist in Davenport Schools and supports Career and Technical Education, K-12 Health and Physical Education, Concurrent Enrollment, and Career Readiness. She is the district lead in development and implementation of the Iowa Career and Academic Plans (ICAP) for students and facilitates the use of Xello as an integral component of them. Amy Murphy is a Counselor at West High School in Davenport Community Schools. She strives to build a comprehensive counseling program that addresses all students' needs.
ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Hudson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. She specializes in content marketing, corporate storytelling and good old-fashioned journalism. You can read some of her work in The Toronto Star and learn more about her at heatherhudson.ca.